Your favorite conference talks?

I enjoy watching conference talks and I’m interested in learning what your favorites are.

Here are some favorites of mine:

  • RailsConf 2015 - Closing Keynote by Kent Beck
    To me it’s really valuable to have heroes and people to look up to and get inspired by, especially if you are starting out in a new field. Kent Beck was one of my heroes when I first started out programming. In this talk he shares about his struggles with being at ease at work. He shows himself vulnerable on a big stage and I deeply respect him for it.
  • The Soul of Software by Avdi Grimm
    In this talk, Avdi gets philosophical and asks what it means to create models of reality and what that means for our responsibilities as software developers.
    • The talk Schemas for the Real World by Carina C. Zona is related but more practical, I think Avdi references it in at least one version of his talk. From the description: “Development challenges us to code for users’ personal world. Users give push-back to ill-fitted assumptions about their own name, gender, sexual orientation, important relationships, & other attributes that are individually meaningful. We’ll explore how to develop software that brings real world into focus & that allows individuals to authentically reflect their personhood & physical world.”
  • Connascence Examined by the late Jim Weirich
    Jim teaches about the somehow somewhat little known concept of Connascence, convinced me that software design is mostly about managing dependencies, for which connascence is a really nice way to think about. You can read more about connascence at
  • Stop Writing Dead Programs by Jack Rusher
    Probably a bit of recency bias involved but it was a nice talk to watch. Jack makes his case for live programming environments.

Also literally any talk by Sandi Metz and by Aaron Patterson.


A history of the keyboard by Matt Adereth, creator of the Dactyl 3d-printed keyboard which I forked to make my one-handed design

Also about keyboards, but this time the musical variety. This is an explanation of one of the coolest instruments ever, the Hammond organ, which he creates an emulation of using an Arduino
“Soul from Scratch: Designing a More Portable Organ” by Peter Teichman

“The Mess we’re in” - Joe Armstrong

I’ll edit this with periodic updates as I think of more


I love watching conference talks on youtube! I’m probably missing some, but here are some of my favorites that come to mind:

  • Autopsy of a Browser by Erin Zimmer - A really cool journey throughout the history of browsers I had no idea about before listening to this. Despite the name, the talk only really looks at the anatomy of a browser towards the end, and for me, it was the least exciting bit.
  • Simplicity is Complicated by Rob Pike - Talks about some design decisions for Go and how designing a language to be simple was actually really complicated. In general I think this principle applies to other things too other than language design, so I’d say there’s value in this talk even if you have no interest in Go.
  • Concurrency is not Parallelism by Rob Pike - Sometimes we use the terms “concurrency” and “parallelism” interchangeably and this talk really highlights the differences, and how concurrency is a more interesting concept than parallelism.
  • Plain Text by Dylan Beattie - Also named as “there’s no such thing as plain text” sometimes. Although text is everywhere in programming, the talk brings attention to the fact that “plain text doesn’t really exist” because it’s all about the encoding of bits. Goes throughout the history of encoding systems in a really captivating way with some fun anecdotes along the way.

Oh yes, I remember Simplicity is Complicated, was really helpful for me.

I remembered two more talks that I really enjoyed:

  • OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect (in plain English) by Nate Barbettini
    This talk is an absolute life save for anyone that has to touch OAuth2, at least it was a life saver for me. :D
  • Build Your Own Webpack by Ronen Amiel
    This talk in combination with the blog post Modern JavaScript Explained For Dinosaurs helped me get somewhat comfortable with the modern JavaScript ecosystem. Although packers are on the way out, I heard, as they don’t provide as much benefits with http/2 and http/3. Still useful for tree shaking though. Especially as browsers separate their caches by domains now, so CDNs also don’t provide as much benefits anymore.
    Anyways, the talk is a live coding demonstration of building a basic version of webpack.
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That OAuth 2.0 is also really good. Watched it when I was trying to figure out what OAuth was all about, and that talk was the most helpful thing that came up! Really put things into simple terms, while having enough technical details we engineers like to understand something.

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I’m going to blow my own trumpet, but this was the first talk I ever gave and while lots of my opinions have probably changed, it got enough laughs (including from the aforementioned lovely Jim Weirich) that I’ll reshare it here! Baruco 2013: Refactoring Your Productivity, by Jeremy Walker - YouTube


This did not age a day and I think about and share this often: Velocity NY 2013: Richard Cook, "Resilience In Complex Adaptive Systems" - YouTube

I love everything by Rob Pike (one of the creators of Go), how he thinks about things resonates with me a lot, probabably part of the reason why I like Go.

And then of course everything by our founder Katrina Owen, e.g.

Some of them are quite old already, still super relevant imo though.


Just remembered one of my favorite talks is also Youtube: Jake Archibald: In The Loop. A very good explanation of the event loop in Javascript and how stuff like setTimeout, requestAnimationFrame, events and promises interact with it. The explanation is high level for the most part, but with enough technical details to allow the understanding of some of the edge cases.

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Coming Of Age | Bryan Cantrill | Monktoberfest 2022 - YouTube

Paul Chiusano started the research that led to the Unison language:
“Unison: a new distributed programming language” by Paul Chiusano - YouTube